39 – Rejected at Home
Where: Nazareth, Galilee
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With the worst of the summer heat now past, but with the early rains not yet begun, Jesus began another journey through the region of Galilee. He would go to places like Chorazim and Safat, Gennesaret and Magdala, Cana and Nazareth, Nain and Esdraelon. He planned to heal the ill, proclaim the kingdom, and to teach in their synagogues.
When Jesus arrived in Nazareth early in the week, he stayed with his mother (Joseph had died years ago and Jesus had run the family business and supported the family before he began his mission). The people of Nazareth knew that Jesus was in town, but very few sought him out, either to be healed (though he was known for healing and folks in other villages had sought him out for help when he visited) or to learn about the kingdom.
On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue with ALL of his disciples. The service began with the Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, only the Lord” [the creed of Israel], followed by a prayer. Then a reading from the Law books [read in a three year cycle] by a male person chosen by the elders. This was then followed by a Psalm.
Then an elder selected Jesus to read any selection of his choice from the scrolls of the prophets. Jesus stood, walked to the front of the hall, and asked for the scroll of Isaiah. Slowly it was unrolled to a familiar passage telling how God would select and send a Messiah that would free God’s people in a time of need, and make the kingdom of God a reality. The Messiah would heal all wounds, remove the pain caused by evil, and bring freedom. All would be judged before God, and truth and lies would be seen plainly by all.
Then he turned to a second passage of Isaiah that tells of the actions that we are to take. It is our service to God to help those in need.
While the scroll was re-rolled and put away, Jesus sat down and paused. The people were thinking about how the Roman troops were oppressing Israel. Everyone waited for Jesus to speak. Here was a rabbi from their own town, who had traveled through the whole of Galilee.
Jesus took the time to look each person in the eyes. You could have felt the anticipation. Jesus had decided to tell these folks the straight truth (for the sake of his disciples) so he stood and said, ‘Today God has done this! You should celebrate it as though it were a Jubilee year’. And then he sat down again.
The synagogue erupted with quiet discussion. This statement pleased them very much. Jesus had obviously encountered the Messiah during his travels and would now tell them who it was. The disciples heard comments like, ‘The Messiah is already here?’ ‘The reign of God is here?’ ‘The Romans will have to leave.’ ‘Finally the Jews will rule the world.’ Hope stirred throughout the synagogue.
But quickly it dawned on some, that Jesus believed that HE was the next King of Israel. Now doubt spread. ‘For thirty-two years we watched you grow up, after you were brought here as an infant.’ ‘You are no one special.’ ‘We know your family.’ ‘You are no scholar.’ And some began demanding proof. ‘Do some mighty work here, for us now, like you raised the girl or healed the woman,’ they challenged Jesus, ‘as we have heard you did elsewhere.’
But Jesus knew how little faith was in this town. For a week he had been available but few had come. The time for healing based on faith was past, and he had not been able to help very many because not very many had enough faith to seek him.
So Jesus told them that it was a matter of faith. ‘The only sign that I will give you that I am the Anointed One is my word,’ said Jesus. ‘Look at Elijah and the Gentile widow, and at Elisha and the Gentile leper. The Gentiles with faith will enter the Kingdom before Jews without faith. Now is the time for you to choose.’
This really infuriated the elders and some of the people who understood what Jesus meant. If they did not accept Jesus on “blind faith” then they would not be welcome in the Kingdom. ‘You are wrong!’ ‘You are misleading the people.’ ‘Shut up!’ ‘You do not represent God in this matter.’ ‘A bastard would teach us?’ ‘You should be killed as a false teacher.’ ‘Get out!’ These were some of the comments the disciples remember hearing. The disciples quickly gathered beside Jesus in case there was to be trouble.
So Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, followed by an angry mob, and then left the town and never returned to Nazareth.
No questions have been asked yet.